March 30, 2016 · 10:24 pm
The last month has been mostly about Oscar nominated films… surprise, surprise! So without further ado here’s February selection of speedy reviews:
The Danish Girl: the life of Danish painter Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, pioneer transgender, and his wife Gerda, also a talented painter. I know that this is considered an Eddie Redmayne’s film, whose performance is both convincing and effective, but the one that truly shines is Alicia Vikander as Gerda. She embodied the role of loyal, supporting wife and her struggle to make sense of her life and her husband’s. I must say that she’s the one who really sold me the story and ended up making it convincing and gut-wrenching. Tom Hooper skillfully handles this dramatic tale and beautifully recreates both Copenhagen and Paris in the 1920s. Affecting —7/10
Carol: Todd Haynes gives us an artfully shot, intense period drama with two great actresses (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett) at the top of their game. Therese, shop girl and aspiring photographer, meets and falls in love with the titular Carol, an older woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. Set in the fifties, this love story has all the complications that come with the social mores of the time and strongly reminds of Far From Heaven, however it’s a little more hopeful but less powerful. Cate Blanchett should always dress as a New Yorker in the 1950s, she’s spectacular. Kudos also go to Kyle Chandler for his solid performance as the abandoned husband and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s best friend. Interesting —7/10
Anomalisa: the quirky genius of Charlie Kaufman takes the viewer along for a ride in a weird world. Using stop-motion animation he tells a story of alienation and loneliness (which are recurrent themes in his films): a customer service guru, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), feels detached from everything but, on a business trip, meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his anomaly, and things suddenly change for the better…at least that’s what it seems. While the plot is rather straightforward, the storytelling is multi-layered as is Kaufman’s wont and the different media is meant to add an additional twist. Unfortunately, the latter completely backfires (at least for me) because I found the facial features of the puppets utterly distracting and not in a good way. Unexpected —6/10
Hail, Caesar!: Eddie Mannix’s (Josh Brolin) life as fixer for a major Hollywood studio is very complicated and demanding. He has to deal with a difficult director (Ralph Fiennes), a pregnant starlet (Scarlet Johansson), nosy gossip journalists (Tilda Swinton), the kidnapping of a movie star (George Clooney) and his inner demons. The Coens brings back the lights and shadows of Hollywood’s golden era with their usual humour and manage to coax great performances out of Clooney, Brolin, Ehrenreich and the rest of the cast. There’s a cornucopia of references to different film genres and their cliches as well as to the lives of celebrities, mostly what should be kept from the public. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about religion with a rabbi and representatives of the different christian confessions. Lighthearted —7.5/10
Filed under Animation, Seen at the cinema
Tagged as Alden Ehrenreich, Alicia Vikander, Cate Blanchett, Charlie Kaufman, David Thewlis, drama, Duke Johnson, Eddie Redmayne, Ethan Coen, George Clooney, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joel Coen, Josh Brolin, Kyle Chandler, LGBT, Matthias Schoenarts, period, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Todd Haynes, Tom Hooper, transgender
February 8, 2016 · 6:27 pm
Director: Quentin Tarantino; Main Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern;
Tarantino’s latest effort is an unapologetic love letter to the western genre and an extremely self-indulgent exercise of cinematic talent. Overly long shots of stagecoach and horses in the snowy landscape of Wyoming, dragged-on banter between untrusting and untrustworthy characters are a few things that do not work as well as planned. The gist of the story is: eight strangers (more or less) are forced by a blizzard to spend a day together at Minnie’s Haberdashery (thanks Tarantino, that was my word of the day!) and bounty hunter John “the Hangman” Ruth (Russell) worries that someone will try to free his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jason Leigh) before he can deliver her to the sheriff of Red Rock. At this point, the audience has already been introduced to John, Daisy, another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson), the coach driver O.B. (James Parks) and Chris Mannix (Goggins) during the aforementioned stagecoach ride with some clever exchanges. At the haberdashery they find a peculiar gallery of characters: hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), retired confederate general Smithers (Dern), world-weary cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen) and Bob (Demian Bichir), who is looking after the place since Minnie and her husband are away. As a side note: the tally is up to nine not eight but I guess poor O.B. doesn’t really count.
The stage is set for the drama to unfold and the viewer is waiting for the explosion of violence in Tarantino’s style, although not before we are regaled with the background stories of most of the characters… or so we think. This western is suddenly turned into a murder mystery theatre piece, which is far from a bad thing as Tarantino already proved with Reservoir Dogs and the heist movie genre. It is however a little too slow-burning and at times you feel the lack of a more ruthless editing. With that said, all the actors but especially Russell, Jason Leigh and Jackson are a riot and a joy to watch, showing their acting chops (and having fun too!) and drawing the viewer in.
A minor quibble I have is about the soundtrack: Tarantino’s dream come true of having Ennio Morricone composing a score for one of his movies might not be all that great, it ended up being less personal and eclectic, I enjoyed Django’s music much more. As for the film as a whole, it is definitely not my favorite of Tarantino’s oeuvre, it doesn’t have enough bite and the pace is too slow. Barely up to par —7/10
Filed under Seen at the cinema
Tagged as blizzard, bounty hunter, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, stagecoach, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, western, Wyoming